Tag Archives: books

Lagging Behind, and Misery in Derbyshire

It’s Wednesday today and I’m still blogging about Monday.

Eventually we reached Carsington Water, where I discovered I had left my stick at home. Though I have a spare one in the car it is one of my Dad’s and is about two inches too short. It actually causes more problems than it solves and is only there for emergencies.

It was a handy excuse for not walking round and freezing. So we went to the shops. Julia spent the points off the RSPB loyalty card on crackers and cards and I poked through the books and bird food before deciding that I didn’t feel like spending money.  I never feel like spending money, but at Christmas I can at least get into the character of Ebeneezer Scrooge and claim I’m entering the spirit of Christmas.

We went into the Air Ambulance charity shop after that. It was a miserable experience.  They seemed to have taken delivery of a new consignment of stock, and most of it was stacked in front of the books so I couldn’t see the interesting books.  To make things worse, the staff member who was on duty seemed to go out of her way to obstruct Julia as she tried to look round. It takes a lot to wind Julia up but she wasn’t very pleased by the time she’d finished.

We like the air ambulance, and though the kids never needed it, we have been at events where other rugby players have been whisked off for treatment. We also like charity shops. Things are bad when I use the words “miserable experience” about a visit.

I was able to look at a cookery book – James Martin’s Great British Winter Cookbook. I won’t add a link as that might tempt someone to buy it. None of the recipes grabbed me, and one, Tomato and Cumin Soup, didn’t seem particularly British or wintery. I mean, where are all the winter tomatoes? In Spain.

Then we went for tea and cake. A day that features tea and cake can’t be all bad can it? And the restaurant is always good. I say “always”…

Julia liked her mince pie. I thought my raspberry and orange cake was a bit dry. And deficient in raspberries, though as I served myself I only had myself to blame. Then I started to think I detected the aftertaste of artificial sweetener. It may not have been, but it was definitely an unpleasant aftertaste.

To cheer things up I suggested a trip to the bookshop at Brierlow Bar.  I wasn’t expecting much, but as we were on the doorstep thought we might as well go.  To be fair, some of the book stock does seem to be improving, after a bit of a slump, as does the card stock. However, we bought cards and stationery and no books, which doesn’t look good for the future.

We couldn’t even eat cake as we are dieting and had already had our daily ration.

In my dreams of next year I see myself standing outside the shop with my nose pressed up against the window looking in at the bright lights. Inside, people enjoy tea and cake, buy expensive bird food and select books that I wouldn’t enjoy.

Sadly, I cannot participate and I gradually fade away like the ghost of readers past…

I will leave you with that picture.

The next post will be more cheery.

 

It could have gone better…

We went down to the Mencap garden tonight to drop off a donation of plants from one of the neighbours. We have Japanese anemone, Michaelmas daisies, buddleia and raspberries. I’ve also donated my tea plants as they can make a better job of looking after them than I will.

The Magpies were waiting.

There were two on the roof of the shed, two perching on the fence and two standing on top of a lamp post. One was perching in a tree and one was pottering around in the grass. He’s the one that we think acts like a stroppy teenager. We assume it’s a “he” because girls don’t act like stroppy teenagers. If Magpies wore baseball caps his would be on backwards.

We’ve never seen eight at one time at the gardens before.

The first part of the afternoon was less interesting.

It involved eating soup (which went well) but then deteriorated as I took two bags of books to the charity shop. It started to rain as I parked the car. I grabbed a lightweight rain jacket from the back seat and managed to empty one of the bags of books onto the floor.

As slapstick goes it was a polished and faultless move.

After parting with the books, which still hurts as I talk about it, I decided to use the available light to photograph some bits and pieces. (I find the light in the car better than the interior of the house at this time of year). I hadn’t locked the door of the battery compartment last time I opened it.

They fell out.

I put them back.

And at that point I realised I hadn’t put the card in.

I was so wet I steamed up the inside of the car. This took a while to clear and gave me time to brood on the unfairness of life.

Then I went home, where Julia told me she had a job for me. That brings us back to the top of the page…

More Grumbling

After we decided not to risk more garden centres we decided to drop down through the Peak District. This involved use of the satnav, and I have to say it didn’t cover itself in glory. For one thing, it kept interrupting our conversation with it’s constant chanting of taking second exits at roundabouts and turning left in 700 yards. No, I don’t know why 700 is seen as significant, that’s why it sticks in my mind. I’d be much more boring if I was designing a sat nav – 800 and 500 would do for me.

That, unfortunately, wasn’t the main problem. The infernal machine insists on using main roads, and is quite prepared to make a substantial detour to use dual carriageways and motorways, despite the map and common sense. That was how we found ourselves travelling through various unattractive industrial areas on dual carriageways, rather than the drama of the High Peak.

When we eventually got into the countryside we had an entertaining drive with some breathtaking views and impressive viaducts. Unfortunately these weren’t matched by equally impressive viewpoints, so there are no photos. I could have taken several photos of the back ends of traffic queues too, but I didn’t. Once you’ve seen the back of one car for twenty minutes, you’ve seen all you need for a lifetime.

We did manage some photos of the heather and snow fences  on the A628, just before we got to the really good scenery. Isn’t that always the way?

The good news is that we reached the bookshop in time to top up the cheese toasties with a restorative cup of tea and a good chunk of date and walnut cake. Dates and Walnuts are healthy aren’t they? Made into cake they are even better.

I do have some misgivings about the shop now the cafe is proving more popular. It’s difficult to put my finger on it, and even more difficult to defend my position, It has got to be good that the shop is more profitable, and I’m resigned to putting up with the inane chatter of customers and staff (who seem to spend more time yacking than serving) but I am concerned about the number of books, and the fact it’s getting more difficult to find books that I want to read.

We’d nearly finished the cake before the tea arrived, and struggled to find books. That, to me, means that a top class bookshop has now been replaced by a less good bookshop and a cafe that needs someone to get a grip.

Menus on clipboards, lamps made from vintage petrol cans (I shudder at the thought of the desecration) and mix-and-match crockery is all very well, but good tea, good cake and good service is essential. Two out of three isn’t good enough in this context. And the man in the kitchen needs to get some work done instead of loafing about chatting up the female staff.

If I was an anthropologist, or if he was a wild bird, I might find his courtship behavior interesting. But as a thirsty book-buyer, I really don’t need him droning on when he’d be better employed loading the dishwasher.

 

Book Review – Elements of Murder

The Elements of Murder: A History of Poison

John Emsley

Hardcover: 436 pages

Publisher: OUP Oxford; 1st Edition edition (28 April 2005)

Language: English

ISBN-10: 0641823894

ISBN-13: 978-0641823893

It has everything I want from a book – science, history and murder. It’s not a book everyone would enjoy but to geeks like me it’s fascinating to know that a broken thermometer played a part in the development of photography. I’m also intrigued to find that Pope Alexander VI  was poisoned in 1503 after dining with his son (well, they were Borgias), and that “perpetual pills” were made from antimony. When swallowed, they would pass through the gut, and irritate the gut into clearing itself out. They would then be retrieved, washed and used again. I’m not surprised their use has died out. I still shudder at the thought of what happened when I swallowed one of my gold crowns.

If you prefer environmentalism to murder you can read it as a book on the damage done to humans, fish and the atmosphere, with examples from history and from modern times.

If science is your thing, there is plenty available, possibly too much.

The book covers the poisons Mercury, Arsenic, Antimony, Lead, Thallium and “Other poisonous elements”. There are other poisons available, but these are the ones in the book – the clue is in the word “element” in the title. If you want a book on poisons in general you need a different book. If, for instance, you were interested in general poisons  (and I am making no judgement here) you may be better with a book on plants.

It’s not an easy read because the detail is quite dense, and you have to concentrate, but it is interesting and informative.

I won’t lie, it’s patchy, and there are slow bits because some of the poisoning cases are well known (like Napoleon’s death by wallpaper) and because the science sometimes goes on a bit, but I like the history and there are hundreds of items of trivia to be gleaned from a reading of the book. I’m not going to criticise a book just because of my inability to process science writing.

It’s going back on the shelf for now, but after leafing through it for examples of trivia, I’ll be reading it again soon.

 

 

 

Biblioperigrination – new word for an old problem

I learned a valuable lesson about book reviews recently. That lesson is do not promise reviews on books you haven’t read yet. The photograph shows The Normans and their Myth, which is quite interesting but not riveting, so I haven’t actually finished it.

Same goes for taking care of books you’ve promised reviews on, as I’ve mislaid 50 ways to make you Home and Garden Greener. It’s easily done when you have piles of books everywhere. I suppose I could review it from memory, but I can’t really remember it that well – I’ve read so many books on this subject.

Reviewing a book from memory, particularly with my memory, could be a dangerous occupation.

The problem is that books seem to have a secret life of their own and are much more mobile than you think. I’m going to see if there is a Japanese word for that. If decided on the word for this phenomenon – biblioperigrination. According to Google there is no mention of this, so I claim to have invented the word. As it’s now going to be in my title and I’m putting in a bid to have it recorded as the first known use. I may write to Susie Dent about it.

I’m going to do The Elements of Murder next. I’ve read it, and I can see it from here, so there shouldn’t be any problems with that. I just need to make sure I’m reading fast enough to keep up with myself.

With that in mind, I won’t tell you what’s next, though I will tell you I’ve just had V. S. Naipaul’s  A Turn in he South delivered. It has been recommended by arlingwoman and I’m looking forward to reading it.

We’re going out now as I’m going to treat Julia to a cream tea. We breakfasted late on scrambled eggs, mushrooms and brown toast, so the cream tea will be a late lunch, which makes me feel better about eating it whilst on a diet. There’s no eating between meals, but if we have it as a meal it’s not a problem.

 

Book Review – Deep South

Deep South

Paul Theroux

Paperback: 441 pages

Publisher: Penguin (3 Mar. 2016)

ISBN-10: 0241969352

ISBN-13: 978-0241969359

I saw this in the shop and thought this would be a good chance to learn something about the southern states of the USA. After reading quite a few crime novels based in the South I thought I ought to learn something about it.

I was expecting poverty, religion and racism and that’s what I got.

The religion, and its role in society was quite exotic for someone in the UK. For most of us, it doesn’t play a big part in our lives, and I’ve certainly never had my hair cut by a man who has his own church. I was hoping that he would visit a church that used snakes, but he didn’t. He didn’t eat much barbecue either, but I suppose you can’t have everything.

The poverty, on the other hand, is discussed in terms that seem fairly universal. Loss of traditional industry, lack of education, poor housing, production moved overseas – all of it could be true of many places.

It’s more interesting when he discusses the growing trend for African-American families to move into farming, and the various routes they have taken. Apart from that you can’t really tell you are in the South. Conversations in development agencies, for instance, seem to run along the same lines whether you are in the UK or the USA.

There was plenty on racism, including discussion of the Civil Rights movement and the current situation, which doesn’t seem to have moved on as much as you would have thought. I’m not going to develop this discussion because there is too much scope for putting my foot in it.  Just let’s say that it gave me food for thought.

To sum up, there’s a lot to this book, but while it gave me much to think about, it also seemed to leave a lot undone. It seems too long, partly due to digressions about previous travels and Southern literature, and partly due to repetition of things like Gun Shows, but in some areas it just didn’t go deep enough.

Not a bad book, but an unsatisfactory one. Would I recommend it? Probably not.

Sorry to be so negative for two reviews in a row, that’s just how it is.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Tsundoku revisited

I’ve written about tsundoku before – the habit of piling up unread books. It was brought into painful focus earlier today when I opened up  a box of books that has been undisturbed for several years. For “several” you could probably substitute “ten” judging by the publication dates.

When I read The Elements of Murder  last month I was surprised at my familiarity with poisons and notable poisoning cases. Not only surprised, but quietly impressed with the breadth of my knowledge.

So when I found a copy of the paperback edition in the box today it was a bit of a downer. Not only is my knowledge based on reading the book ten years previously, but my memory is in fact so bad I didn’t remember buying the book twice.

It’s also a reminder that when I pictured the seven books in the photograph I was intending to review them swiftly. I’ve actually managed two and started two more. I haven’t even finished reading one of them. But I have bought more, and read several of them.

Ah well.

I suppose this officially the start of old age…